A nation deserves the leaders they elect, so why complain? That is more and more the approach I am tempted to take when it comes to Belizean politics.
The patterns of behaviour of the two major political parties have been virtual mirror images of each other and like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, after a while it becomes impossible to differentiate the humans from the pigs.
There is not a single person among us who would have believed that the current administration would have morphed into what it is today. When this government fist took office the hopes and aspiration of the people were extremely high. After one term and almost two years into a second term, we are now starting to see the same behavioural patterns as the last PUP administration’s.
More and more people are becoming frustrated and I challenge anyone to show me that their life is any better now than it was when this government first came into power. And by anyone, I mean ordinary people, not the politically connected or the social elite, because their bank accounts have gotten exponentially bigger.
My general view is that while there have been some improvements in the country, they are not coming quick enough and the distribution of wealth is terribly unbalanced. This is one of the reasons why I have a great degree of admiration for what Greg Choc is doing. On the one hand I am a huge advocate for oil exploration because one, my career has evolved around the petroleum industry and two, I have seen the benefits it has created in other countries.
While I do not support the theory of balkanization or completely support the concept of ancestral lands, I do support the fact that indigenous people want and rightly deserve a piece of the oil pie.
The history of this nation has shown that in any new industry the people that benefit the most are always those on top and not the people at the bottom.
Look at the tumultuous citrus, banana, sugar, tourism and petroleum industries and take a look at who is at the top and who benefits the most. That should answer a lot of questions.
I am from the extreme south and I firmly believe that if oil is found there, then the people from the south should be the ones who benefit the most; not the oil company, not the NGO’s, not the big businessmen and definitely not Belize City.
Coexistence can happen between the industry, local communities and stakeholders, but this balance must be in the interest of all. While I agree that any reasonable person will understand that investors will require returns on their investment, it must not be so exorbitant that it affects the interests of others.
Jobs, contracts and opportunities must first be afforded to those people around whom the oil was found. We must be careful not to create a situation whereby it’s the equivalent of your brother finding gold in your backyard and he in turn decides how the spoils will be shared.
But I digress …
The PUP is presently undergoing a massive reconstruction both cosmetic and otherwise. The question then becomes what if the changes do not work and we are left with more of the same?
Until the PUP can prove that it’s reforms are genuine and will address the pressing problem of wealth distribution, then we are left with the same thing. The people’s choices will remain the same – namely a choice between the two major parties.
And one might ask, what about the third parties? The answer to that is lost in the wilderness. The third party option, for the most part was a victim of its own success. The mostly small and competing parties fail to galvanize at their point of greatest success, which was when they placed second place in the Belmopan municipal election.
That was the height of their glory and from there everything else went downhill. The third party movement, while it presented one of the best options for growth, wealth distribution and equality, will now be a more difficult sell with the reforms the PUP is making.
This is not to say that it cannot have some impact in the next general elections, however, the work needs to start now. Now is the time to create an alliance, secure much needed finances and, most of all, elect a leader that has the strength, drive and charisma to one day be a leader to the nation.
The task is not impossible. I strongly believe that if the PUP and UDP are faced with a strong third party balance and the management of the nation is not seen as a revolving door between the two, then they will be forced to reform from within.
It’s all about the people!